• Dan Russoman

Seven St. Joe athletes headed to college


Seven St. Joseph Academy student athletes made their college decisions official last week on National Signing Day. From left, Makayla Veneziale, Brock Mercado, Brianna Bailey, Ahmad Ross, Keshon Griffin, Chase Lomax and Ethan Hunt. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Seven St. Joseph Academy senior student athletes signed National Letters of Intent last week, making their college decisions official at a ceremony held at the school on December 16.


Brianna Bailey, Keshon Griffin, Ethan Hunt, Chase Lomax, Brock Mercado, Ahmad Ross and Makayla Veneziale all participated in National Signing Day.


“We’re very proud of all of them,” St. Joseph athletic director Anne Marie Mercado said.


Mercado praised every athlete who signed last week, citing their athletic and academic accomplishments, as well as their dedication to St. Joseph, which almost closed its doors last summer.


“I give these kids a lot of credit. They’ve worked hard on the field and in the classroom to be able to earn scholarships, both athletically and academically. And they all chose to stick with St. Joe when we were going through a tough time. Each of them could have gone somewhere else, but they stayed here,” Mercado said.


St. Joseph principal Lynn Domenico echoed Mercado’s sentiments.


“They’re all very special young men and women. They have excelled here and demonstrate the what St. Joseph Academy is all about,” Domenico said.


Bailey, a softball player, is headed to Iona College. A four-year letter winner, Bailey is a two-time Cape Atlantic League All-Star who also plays field hockey and basketball.


Bailey’s teammate, Veneziale, will continue her softball career at Delaware State University. The senior is a four-year varsity letter winner and has earned All-South Jersey and All-Cape Atlantic League honors during her career at St. Joseph. She also played four seasons of field hockey at St. Joe.


“I really liked the school, it’s not too far away, and they have a good team. I’m excited,” Veneziale said about her decision to attend Delaware State.


St. Joseph softball coach Les Olson spoke highly of both players.


“They [Veneziale and Bailey] are both great kids and wonderful to coach and be around. I think everyone knows how well they play on the field, but they’re both good students, great leaders and they represent the school and their families well,” Olson said.


Mercado will attend the University of North Carolina, Ashville, where he will play baseball once his stellar career at St. Joseph ends.


A first team Cape Atlantic League All-Star, Mercado is a four-year starter who also played football and soccer at St. Joseph.


“Brock looked at a lot of schools, but he like it there [at UNC-Asheville] and he’s happy. We’re very proud of him,” Anne Marie Mercado, Brock’s mother, said.


Four St. Joseph football players also signed last week.


Griffin, who had announced his decision to attend Rutgers last spring, is a four-year letter winner for St. Joseph who also played basketball.


“I’m excited. I really like what coach [Greg] Schiano is doing there [at Rutgers] and I can’t wait to play,” Griffin said.


Griffin has earned multiple all-South Jersey and All-State honors during his career.


Teammate Chase Lomax has also been a four-year starter for the Wildcats and earned many All-State and All-South Jersey honors as well.


Lomax will attend Long Island University in the fall.


“They [Griffin and Lomax] are very good players and they were able to find colleges that fit them well,” St. Joseph coach Paul Sacco said.


Another St. Joseph lineman, Ethan Hunt, will play at Georgetown University next fall.


Hunt won four letters at St. Joseph, earning All-South Jersey and All-State honors during his career.


The choice to attend Georgetown was an easy one, he said.


“When you look at the school, the [football] program is growing and you can’t ask for more academically. It’s a great place, a great atmosphere and they made my decision easy,” Hunt said.


Ross will also be attending a school strong both athletically and academically as he has signed to attend the United State Military Academy at West Point.


“Army came in a little late [in the recruiting process] and I had never really considered them, but I have some family who went there and after looking at the whole package, it feels like a great fit for me,” Ross said.


Sacco was happy for all his players as well as every athlete who signed last week.


“I think our kids all made great decisions. Keshon [Griffin] has a chance to make an impact at Rutgers, and I believe Chase Lomax will do very well at Long Island. Ethan [Hunt], what can you say? To have an opportunity to attend a school like Georgetown, I’m happy for him. And I think Ahmad [Ross} will really do well at West Point. He has the right personality and work ethic to meet that challenge,” Sacco said.